The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fatima, Portugal

It was very difficult getting out of Llisbon. For some reason the police had a lot of the streets I needed to use blocked off. I never knew why. Maybe they were getting ready for a parade. At any rate, I finally made my way out into the Portugal countryside. All over southern Portugal there are cork trees and I wanted to see them.

Cork is the dead outer bark of all trees, but the "Cork" we use for stoppers and bulletin boards comes from a special tree that grows mostly in Portugal. It is called the Cork Oak, and it happens to have a cork layer that is much thicker than that of any other tree in the world.

They strip the cork off a tree every nine years, revealing the reddish cork cambium underneath. Since cork is dead, it does not hurt the tree any more than you having your fingernails or hair cut hurts you.

My route eventually took me up the west coast of Portugal to a medieval city named Obidos. They dress up in costume and have a medieval fair each June, but I was several weeks to early to see it.

From that city it was only a hop and a skip up to Fatima. This was one of my main goals here in Portugal.

Back in 1917, three young children saw an angel. He taught them to pray, and he prepared them for a visit from Mary, the Mother of God.

They saw Mary on the 13th day of each month for several months. During these visits she revealed three secrets to the children. The first was a vision of Hell. The second was that there would be another war after the First World War and that it would be a greater war. The third secret was one that the Church refused to reveal to the world.

Word soon got out, and people started following the children hoping to see Mary themselves. Finally, Mary promised there would be a miracle on the 13th day of the final month (I think is was the month of October). That day there were 26,000 people there to see the miracle. It was a terrifically rainy day, but at the promised hour the sun broke through the clouds, turning colors and appearing to fall toward the Earth. Petals fell from the sky but never touched the ground. Many of the people there that day were skeptics, and some were journalists. They all saw the miracle, and the journalists reported it. Did it happen? I don't know. I look for scientific reasons for all miracles, but who am I to say it did not occur as reported.

Mary also told the children that the two youngest, a boy and a girl, would die soon. That indeed happened a year or so later. As to the third secret -- the church finally revealed it in the year 2000, almost a century later, and said that it had predicted the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II which took place on 13 May at 17.17 (They use the 24 hour clock in Europe). Compare the dates with those of Mary's appearances to the children in Fatima (13th of each month in the year 2017). Coincidence? Hmmmm.

The children are buried in the Basilica at Fatima.

They lived in humble homes outside the city. Here is Lucy's home. She was the eldest.

And here is a well near her house where the angel appeared to the children on his second visit.

Now their hometown, a short distance from Fatima, is a sleepy little Portuguese village.

This is a bedroom inside Lucy's childhood home. I am not sure, but I think she shared this room with her much younger sister.

I spotted this sheep in the barn and wondered if Jesus slept in a manger like this one.

Thousands of faithful come to visit Fatima each year. Often they light candles in memory of departed loved ones. I lit a couple myself in memory of my father and mother.

I have enjoyed my stay at Fatima. I have been in a very Catholic hotel. There is a crucifix over my bed, and there is a Mass each day down in the hotel's prayer room, and there are religious icons on each floor. There are also many gift shops selling religious items all through the town. There is certainly a lot here for the faithful to see and do.

Tomorrow, I am going toward the north. I wonder what this fascinating country will hold for me up there.


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